Unlike the cases of medical malpractice, the cases when therapy harms are not discussed broadly enough to be known to the general public, and that is for several reasons.
Firstly, the harm received in psychotherapy is very difficult to prove in most cases, since the process takes place in a private setting, where there is no one to witness the interactions between the therapist and the client.
Secondly, even if the client can prove that certain events did take place during the therapy, what is and isn’t harmful is often arbitrary, since the practice of psychotherapy, unlike the medical practice, doesn’t use any objective measurements to define the problem in the same way the medicine uses medical tests results to diagnose the illness. For this reason, psychotherapy is often defined as a healing “art”, not a science, which gives the practitioners a lot of freedom to practice however they want. Sadly, it means that the practitioner often has the legal ground to defend his/her methods, even when the client reports them as harmful. In those cases, the therapy failure is explained away by the client’s unwillingness to do the work. Read more about the dangers of the “artistic” approach to psychotherapy here.
Thirdly, the client, who complains about his/her therapist, is often not taken seriously not only by other professionals, but, unfortunately, also by the lay public. This has a lot to do with the so-called “stigma” or, better say, just an old-fashioned prejudice the society has toward those who seek professional psychological help. The immediate common reaction of an average lay person to someone, who is or has been in therapy, is that s/he must be “troubled”, which is equated to “mentally disturbed”, and, therefore, her/his testimony shouldn’t be given much credibility.
Last, but not least, a lack of detailed FACTUAL information about the psychotherapy process available to consumers plays a big role in the overall ignorance about psychotherapy’s harmful potential. Because of such lack of information, the average lay person is not educated and not sophisticated enough to understand what type of trauma can occur during therapy and how it happens.
For all of the above reasons, those who were harmed in psychotherapy often suffer in silence. The only places where they usually get support are online mental health forums, where they can reach out to those who have gone through the same experience. No professional help is available to them because the mental health community is oblivious to the extend of this problem. This is shameful and it has to change.